Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You Don't Need a License to Drink Coffee

Because my workspace at my new company is laid out differently than my old workspace, I’ve been having problems with my morning coffee. In my old workspace, I set my coffee down to the right of my computer, where I could easily reach it with my dominant right hand. However, in my new workspace, I can’t set the coffee cup down on the right side, because it’s out of my line of sight. While groping for the mouse, I knocked over the cup of coffee, which spilled into my keyboard. Twice.

To solve this problem, I moved my coffee cup to the left side of my computer, which means I don’t bump it reaching for the mouse. I’ve trained myself to turn my head and look at it when I want to take a sip, so that I don’t fumble with my admittedly spastic left hand and spill it. Nonetheless, I’ve spilled it twice, because the training process is incomplete, and I forgot to turn my head and look. So I have a problem remembering to turn my head. My daughter, on the other hand, has a problem remembering NOT to turn her head.

Over the past week, I’ve been engaged in a terrifying ordeal, teaching my daughter the skills necessary to pass her driver’s license exam. The most difficult part for her seems to be parking the car in a straight-in parking spot (the ability to parallel-park is not tested in Florida, thank God). The requirement states that the vehicle must be “centered” and “straight” in the parking space.

To conduct this test, I took her to the rear parking lot of a nearby grocery store. I borrowed some empty milk crates and stacked them on either side of the parking space and had her pull in and out of the space repeatedly. Whenever she knocked one of the stacks over, I made a point of saying “That was someone’s SUV and that little mistake is going to cost you a thousand dollars.” She doesn’t have much tolerance for those remarks, which irritate her. Too bad, that’s my job.

Here’s the parking space, and here’s a typically off-center parking attempt:



She has one other problem that I’ve tried desperately to correct: The requirement when driving the car in reverse is that you keep your head facing backward until the vehicle comes to a complete stop, and that requirement exists for good reasons. But for that last 3 feet or so, she turns her head back the front of the car. Whenever she turns her head back early, I shout (perhaps a bit too loudly) “YOU FAIL!” This really, really irritates her, but I have to impress upon her that the DMV officer who administers the driving test isn’t going to tell her to be careful and try it again. She’ll just fail.

Yesterday, she took the test at the local DMV office.


The place was stifling hot, and the male members of the DMV staff had to work in that environment wearing neckties. I took this as support for my theory that people who work at the DMV aren’t actually human beings.

We had a 45-minute wait, which was agony to my keyed-up daughter:


While we waited, I saw several instances of panic-stricken people about to lose their license to drive because they ignored a court summons for six weeks. Some became verbally abusive when they showed up without the required documentation. The DMV staff remained incredibly calm and polite, further confirming my theory.

At long last, my daughter’s name was called, and she made that long walk out to the parking lot.


I waited nervously, chatting with all the other parents of teens getting their first driver’s license. It was like a support group. Eventually, she returned, looking glum.


“I forgot to signal once, and during the 3-point turn I kind of ran up onto the curb,” she confessed, believing that these two mistakes had cost her dearly. But to her delight, such minor transgressions aren’t considered that serious, and she was issued a Florida driver’s license within a few minutes. I drove home, not wishing to hit any more curbs that day, while my daughter gleefully called all of her friends with the good news.



burton said...

Parallel parking USED to be required for FL driver's licenses. I don't remember anything about straight up parking in a parking space. When she is ready to practice for parking downtown in any "compact" spaces or garages, move those crates in about 2-3 feet apiece!

Your parking place training story had that "we need a montage" feel to it.

Anonymous said...

Some how I don't think the picture of your daugher with her head down was from the length of time it was taking to take the test, but from her FATHER taking pictures of her every move and embarassing the crap out of her! I know, I know it's your right to do so.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the minor transgressions you describe are evaluated against the probability that they actually occur. When was the last time you ACTUALLY did a 3 point turn, and more importantly a few unsignaled turns offset the Senior "I'll just leave this turn signal on for the next 3 weeks in case I decide to take a left hand turn" or the DRIVE onto the sidewalk followed by "I was stepping on brake really hard and the car just zoomed ahead." If you want a real adventure now try to teach her to drive a standard, it's an essential life skill. It only cost me one new clutch. C_O2 aka RDLewis